Experiences of racism (whether personal or witnessing racism towards others) present a significant threat to healthy mental functioning. Racism has the potential to affect self-esteem, elicits anger (appropriately so), and can even lead to symptoms of depression over time.
But there is good news! Views of yourself as a racial and cultural person (racial identity) can protect you from the potential negative impact of racist events. There are several components to racial identity:
- How important is race to you
- Your ideas about how Black people should behave and interact with society
- How you view Black people
- How you believe other people view Black people
While self-knowledge alone is often the key to increased mental health, there is some evidence that suggests that certain aspects of racial identity can buffer against racism more than others. For example, Black people who report seeing race as important to who they are, feel positively about being Black, and acknowledge some of the negative views about Black people held by others have reported lower levels of depression symptoms when faced with racism.